Teasing Master Takagi-san 😝 ・ Volume 1, chapter 1

It’s going to happen sometimes. You might read something and misunderstand the nuance. Then later you see the grammar again and misunderstand the nuance. Then later you see the grammar, and you think, “This nuance doesn’t make any sense.”

That sounds bad, right?

Actually, it’s not too bad.

Sure, it’s unfortunate you didn’t properly understand some earlier scenes.

But at this point, when you read up about the grammar again, it will be a lot easier to understand. Even if you had previously read about the grammar from the same source already and kind of understood it, it becomes really easy to understand if you read it later after seeing the grammar a lot in native material.

Although I've written about it a bit here and there on the forums, I don't recall if I've done a comprehensive write-up. So, I'll give a few of the highlights here.

I took high school Japanese back in the Stone Age (long long ago).

I learned to read カタカナ and ひらがな, and maybe upwards of 100 simple kanji.

Over the years, I watched a lot of anime in Japanese with English subtitles.

I tried a few times to read manga in Japanese, but I always failed on the first few pages.

I read grammar material, but it was often dry and didn’t stick.

I went through SRS for the 2,000 most common Japanese vocabulary words, but because I didn’t know much kanji, I forgot most of them. (And a lot of time was wasted on reviewing the same cards over and over often because I used a system that didn’t suspend leeches, cards I just wasn’t learning.) That took me about three or so years. Mostly a waste.

One day, I watched an anime that was an adaptation of a manga. The manga was only available in Japanese. I told myself, “I’m going to read this. This time, I will be successful.”

There is a concept: “Wanting to do something versus deciding to do something.”

Before, I had simply wanted to read manga in Japanese. And that is why I failed every time.

Now I decided to read manga in Japanese. And that is why I succeeded.

The manga didn’t have furigana (and I wasn’t using WaniKani at the time). I bought a digital copy and used a tool to convert the kanji image on the page to text that I could search online. And if the tool failed, I used a website to select the radicals from a list, and it would show all kanji that use those radicals. Then I would look for the one that matched.

Tools for this sort of thing have come a very long way since 2018!

Aside from looking up kanji, I was looking up each vocabulary word and putting them and their source sentence into Anki to do reviews on. (That is, the first time a word came up.) In retrospect, this was a bad idea, because a lot of infrequent words became leeches and I had suspending leeches disabled. That means a lot of infrequent words kept coming up often to review because I wasn’t able to learn them.

Besides looking up the kanji and vocabulary, the most important thing is that I was looking up all the unknown grammar that encountered.

It turns out, looking up the exact grammar I’m seeing in a manga made is a lot easier for me to learn it.

I spend several months to get through the volume.

After I finished it, I started using WaniKani.

I found the book clubs, and stared joining in with the Absolute Beginner Book Club. And later the Beginner Book Club.

I’ve also watched a lot of Cure Dolly’s subtitled Japanese from Scratch video series on YouTube, which made a lot of things make more sense for me.

In the book clubs, I started answering people’s questions. Oftentimes, I had to look up the grammar and read about it to ensure I was answering their question correctly. This improved my understanding of the grammar. If someone answered the question before me because I took too long to look it up and write it, I could discard my draft without posting it. I still gained by reading more about the grammar and writing up about it, so it was still worth it!

Once I felt I could easily keep up with the Absolute Beginner Book Club (and I was barely about to keep up with the Beginner Book Club), I started reading some of my own manga picks.

One manga I picked to read is a series I had seen the subtitled anime a few times, and I had read the manga in English one or two times. This meant I already knew everything that was going on. I did not need to decipher the context because I knew it all. It was like a superpower! I could focus on the vocabulary words and grammar more. I think I benefited a lot from that experience.

I came to use three reading methods, which I wrote about more in my study log at the top of this post here:

  1. The “Understand Everything” Method: I look up every unknown word and grammar. This is how I recommend people read their first manga. It’s easy to lose motivation, so recommend setting up a schedule to decipher X number of pages every day at a set time. For my first manga I read a volume of, I read four panels after work every day.

  2. The “Keep Reading” Method: I focus on reading without stopping. I only look up grammar or words if I have no idea what’s going on.

  3. The “Compare with English Translation” Method: Read in Japanese, but look at an official English release when I get stuck. I found this method was actually the worst for me because if I had the check the English, I wasn’t going back and trying to understand how the Japanese had that meaning.

I’ve tried different methods, such as reading a certain number of pages per day (when I wasn’t as good at it), reading a whole chapter per day (when I was building up my reading stamina), etc.

The most important thing is to set a time each day when you will start reading. Then read what you can. Even if you don’t have the motivation to read, you have to have a schedule for reading.

I wrote a bit about motivation in another thread:

Makes it a schedule to read every day.

Even if you don’t feel like reading, you still need to read.

Even if you’re too tired for it, you need to read.

Even if you think you won’t be able to think clearly, you need to read.

But! It’s okay even if you read only one sentence.

If you read only one sentence, and you think “I really can’t read today,” then you have achieved victory for the day. You did some reading.

You may even find something funny happens. You might not feel like reading, but when you read one sentence you might find you can read a second sentence. Then you might find you want to read the third sentence. Before you know it, you might even read a whole page. And before that, you were thinking you didn’t want to read anything that day.

Phew, I think that’s enough for one day!